Celebrating a death?

I’ll admit I didn’t spend much time yesterday wrestling with my conscience about the fact that America was in a celebratory mood because of a man’s death.

Osama bin Laden was an evil man who perverted his religion and was dedicated to the destruction of America and the slaughter of innocents. The world is a better place with him gone, and if Americans wanted to celebrate that, who, really, could blame us?

But I came across a beautifully written piece by Susan Piver that at least made me give some thought to what she calls the “misdirected jubilation” on the news of bin Laden’s demise.

There has been an outpouring of misdirected jubilation, as if a contest had been won. Nothing has been won. Unlike winning a sporting event, this doesn’t mean that our team has triumphed. Far from it. There is only one team and it is us.

One of us is gone, one apparently horrific, terrible, vicious one of us…is gone. I don’t feel regret for him or about this. I’m regretful for the rest of us who are now left thinking that this is a cause for celebration. It is not.  It is a cause for sorrow at our continued inability to realize that there is no such thing as us and them; that whatever we do to cause harm to one will harm us all.

But what really struck me in the piece was this notion: “Our enemy is not one person or country or belief system. It is our unwillingness to feel the sorrow of others—who are none other than us.”

There is so much violence in this world because so many refuse to see the humanity in those they fight – because they cannot feel the sorrow of others. If all of us could fully feel the pain of a mother who loses a child to a Palestinian rocket, to an Israeli counter-attack, to a Predator drone strike in Afghanistan, to a stray bullet in L.A., to a terrorist bombing in London, would the world end up a better place?

Feel your sadness for us and them so fully and completely that all boundaries are dissolved and we are left standing face to face, human to human, each feeling the other’s rage and despair as our own, one world to care for.

It is good advice, profound advice. It is also, I’m afraid, beyond the capacity of most all of us.


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